I'm gonna mansplain something to y'all today. I'm gonna mansplain a) what feminism is and b) why it's good for you, me, and all the other dudes.
Let's begin simply. Let me tell you what feminism is not.
Feminism doesn't mean women taking over the world, chopping our genitals off and dancing around a fire in the shape of a vagina.
Feminism doesn't mean women harvesting their DNA from menstrual blood and fertilising each other in male-free acts of reproduction.
Feminism isn't about Amazonian tribes and international matriarchies and men being kept as zoo animals for nothing but ridicule and occasional sexual deviance. 1.
Feminism doesn't mean taking the word "man" out of human or "dic" out of "dictionary".
Feminism doesn't mean women being treated better than men.
Feminism is the idea that women and men should be treated the same.
This means, yeah, you can't get paid more just because you've got a c*ck. This means you can't holler out the passenger side of your best friend's ride at women. This means you can't slap and punch and stab and assault and murder your wife, daughter, sister, or any woman anywhere in the world ever. And, come on, you don't honestly believe you deserve all or any of these, right?
We're used to hearing about how traditional gender roles negatively affect female, gay and trans people. It took decades of protest to get female voting rights and gay adoption and marriage equality, and far too long for trans people to get safe access to toilets.
Society is quick to mistreat anyone who fails to comply with old-fashioned, conservative ideals. It's easy to see this in marginalised groups, but men also lose out, especially when we're expected to be big, strong, emotionless and powerful. It is the gap between this ideal and how we actually are that's to blame for - amongst other things - high male suicide rates. Society encourages men to have unrealistic opinions of their abilities, and this can cause serious emotional repercussions when faced with reality.
I saw a play recently that explored a lot of these ideas in powerful detail. It's called Tell Me Anything and, in a searingly honest piece, writer/performer David Ralfe discusses the serious damage that resulted from spending most of his life trying to fix other people's problems while ignoring his own. This pattern begins in his teenage years, when his first girlfriend develops an eating disorder. He cannot fix it, even though he's a man, even though he's "rational", even though he reads the right books and copies their advice. Ralfe believes he can "fix" her - the female as project, the female as machine. This thinking would trap him for years.
Tell Me Anything is about toxic masculinity and the impossible standards it encourages Ralfe to seek. Time accelerates as the show goes on, and we encounter other relationships Ralfe has ruined with his unbending sense of what a man is and what a man does: ideas that are social constructs.
Passing through life repressing heavy emotions, he is angry and unhappy, but does nothing to address this, all he does is try to help women in his life change themselves. They all break up with him using the same words: "I think we're growing apart".
Ralfe's play is about society's over-simplification of what a man is: man is strong, man is calm, man fixes problems. But most men aren't this, and too many men don't express their insecurities until it is too late. Tell Me Anything concludes with Ralfe talking about recent experiences in group therapy, meeting other men who've similarly repressed their feelings until it too led them to lose loved ones or hurt themselves.
Feminism means, fellas, that a man can express his emotions without shame. That no man has to lose someone important because he couldn't say what he felt.
Feminism wants men to feel comfortable saying to a friend, partner, or doctor: "I feel sad. Help me."
Feminism wants men to stop killing themselves. And what is man-hating about that?
Tell Me Anything is is a show by On The Run produced by Show And Tell and is on at Shoreditch Town Hall until Saturday October 1st 2016. Box office here.
1. Though this one doesn't sound so bad, right, masochists??? ↩